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By Satish K. Tripathi

Technological innovation, much of it driven by university research, accounts for as much as half of our nation’s economic growth post-World War II. Its impact on our quality of life has been just as profound. From life-saving vaccines to GPS devices, university research has fueled progress that has transformed daily life across the country.

University research is an equally powerful catalyst for regional economic prosperity. Faculty and students at research universities like the University at Buffalo contribute the ideas, innovations and discoveries that are the essential building blocks of a thriving knowledge economy. Through our partnerships with local business and industry, we bring these ideas to life.

Last month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a “Tax-Free NY” proposal that could significantly advance our university’s role in technology transfer and economic development. The proposed creation of tax-free zones for new companies on and around State University of New York campuses would ease the process of translating university discoveries to the marketplace.

The University at Buffalo currently supports 23 high-impact companies incubating on and around our campuses. In the past year alone, seven new tenants joined UB’s incubators, including three new companies housed at the new UB Biosciences Incubator in the Clinical and Translational Research Center downtown. Attracting new businesses and venture capital would nurture this emerging entrepreneurial culture.

Entrepreneurial faculty could potentially launch or attract a company near their labs, creating synergies that drive regional innovation. The faculty performing cutting-edge bioinformatics and materials informatics research at our two New York State Centers of Excellence and other major research centers would find many valuable collaborators in the companies attracted by this proposal.

Our students also stand to benefit substantially, from expanded opportunities for internships and hiring to the incentive provided for student entrepreneurs interested in launching new companies on or near campus. We are seeing a growing trend of student entrepreneurship, and we are nurturing this interest through programs like the Undergraduate Academy in Entrepreneurship, the Panasci Entrepreneurship Competition and the WNY Prosperity Scholarship program.

We greatly appreciate the governor’s acknowledgment of and support for the role that the University at Buffalo and our fellow SUNY institutions play in creating more vibrant communities. While this proposal is still at an early stage and many details remain to be worked out by the Legislature, UB will be watching with great interest.

Satish K. Tripathi is president of the University at Buffalo and co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.